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November 3, 1997

Oral history of leading UCSC faculty member published

Page Smith

By Barbara McKenna

The Regional History Project of the University Library announces the publication of Page Smith: Founding Cowell College and UCSC, 1964-1973. The volume chronicles the extensive contributions of the nationally renowned historian, who died last year.

Smith joined the faculty in 1964 as founding provost of the campus's first college and embarked on the adventure of creating a new UC campus. The formative concepts shaping the Santa Cruz campus were an emphasis on undergraduate teaching and the creation of small, human-scale colleges around which campus intellectual and cultural life would be organized. Smith became deeply involved in creating a close-knit community at Cowell College, and in promoting a number of innovations during the campus's first decade, perhaps the most significant of which was the narrative evaluation or pass/fail system.

Smith's interviews are organized into three sections. The first includes his commentary on his appointment as the campus's first provost, early faculty appointments, his efforts to recruit women and minority faculty, and notable features of college life. In the second section, he discusses issues he confronted as provost, including the establishment of the pass/fail grading system and the conflict between colleges and boards of studies (now designated as departments).

In the final section, "UCSC's Development," Smith discusses campuswide topics, including his relationship with founding chancellor Dean McHenry, his views on campus architecture, the origins of the history of consciousness graduate program, and town/gown relations during the Vietnam War era. He also discusses the work of his wife, the late artist Eloise Pickard Smith, in the founding of the art gallery at Cowell College that now bears her name.

Smith also discusses his resignation from the university in 1973, after his colleague and friend, Paul Lee, a professor of religious studies, did not receive tenure. Smith used this occasion as a symbolic protest against what he considered the rigidity of the "publish or perish" system governing faculty promotion and tenure in the university.

Smith's legacy lives on in his scholarly work, which he continued unabated after his retirement, with numerous publications, including the eight-volume People's History of the United States,and Killing the Spirit: Higher Education in America. His tireless advocacy in behalf of the community's homeless resulted in many creative activities, including his cofounding (with Paul Lee) of the William James Association, the Homeless Garden Project, the Penny University, and the Prison Arts Project.

This volume can be purchased at cost by research collections and libraries. The volume is available to researchers and readers in Special Collections at McHenry Library and at Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley. For more information, contact the Regional History Project at (408) 459-2847 or at ihreti@cats.ucsc.edu or go to http://bob.ucsc.edu/library/reg-hist/index.html

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